Monday, October 02, 2006

Everything true and real

The beginning of the school year here means another 400 speeches for me to attempt to correct. When fortune smiles upon me, I just have countless speeches about club activities with simple grammatical and spelling mistakes to make it through. These depress me terribly, because they prove how terribly depressing most of the kids' lives are - even during summer they spend too much time studying and doing club activities and don't see their friends - but at least I can slog through them. Sometimes I am hit by a paper that is basically indecipherable; it looks like it has been translated word for word from Japanese to English, despite the complete lack of structural affinity of the two languages; it contains bizarre sentences without subjects or objects that I cannot conceive of; it is still written partly in Japanese that I have to then translate. These take much longer to get through, because they often seem to have been penned by Gollum, all sentences with off-putting subjects ("It tires," "It hurts us", "It eats well,") possessing that same structure of a maniacal rant struck down on paper.

Then there are the fantastic ones like this (Please click on the picture and read). He begins talking about how he loves music, which I appreciate, and then starts talking about how his favorite kind of music is hip-hop. Any kid who doesn't listen to Japanese Pop is cool to me, but then he ups the ante by dropping the name of Jay-Z. The rest of the essay is just pure gold. This is my favorite type of writing I get from students, because it is simply non-reproducible by a native speaker. Freed from an understanding of diction, style, and often grammar itself, and the burdens those things may impose, the Japanese students seem to be able to do things unintentionally with English that are both hilarious and novel.

There are some great lines: "His rap is smooth just like a flowing river," and the songs "have the samurai spirit." But, my favorite part has to be when he writes, "the words of [his] songs [are] everything true and real."

I believe what he meant is, "Everything Jay-Z says in his songs is true and real." But, instead of that stolid phrase, he says the words themselves are everything true and real. He's not talking about the veracity of Jay-Z's experiences, but claiming that the words of Jay-Z represent, perhaps even create, truth and reality in themselves! What made me laugh even more than this, was that it almost sounded like something Jay-Z himself would say; it's the kind of self-aggrandizing lyric a rapper would wish he'd written.

Long story short, I gave this guy high marks and told him I expected a report on the meaning of the song "Girls, Girls, Girls" next week.

No comments: